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Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Yahoo!'s Home Improvement

 

Yahoo! has given itself a cosmetic but functional facelift that blends most (if not all) of Yahoo!’s subscriber based products and features with a sleeker, easier to use layout.

Yahoo! remains an information dense portal but good use DHTML and Ajax in designing an expanding menu system makes finding your way around the vast array of options much simpler. Yahoo! has also introduced a number of personalized information tools that present emails, messages, and music options, along with localized content such as movie reviews, playtimes, local traffic and local weather.

The first thing users will notice is the cool blue-grey toned color scheme used on most of the page that replaces the compilation of colors used on the old home page. A Page Options link below the Web Search button allows users to change the basic color scheme or return to the old version of the page. Though the page feels less busy than its predecessor a second glance shows that there is access to far more content and subscriber based services.

Citing this as the biggest visible change to the Yahoo home page in its twelve year history, notes Yahoo! search blog editor Havi Hoffman. She goes on to say, “The new home page reflects Yahoo!’s unique position at the intersection of people, media, and knowledge.”

That might be taking it a bit far but Yahoo!’s new home page looks and feels far more accessible than the previous one did. A third glance at the page reveals that Yahoo! has far more features and services available than most users could have realized. On the front page, there are almost 50 visible user listed options above or below the search query box.

Yahoo!’s designers were faced with the terrible task of presenting as many usable products as possible, preferably above the fold. A key directive was to accentuate Web Search. Whether the query box is more prominent or the additional information provided by the portal is less cluttered, it appears easier for the eye to see than on the old version of the home page. Directly above the search box are links to the eight specific search types supported by Yahoo!, web, images, video, audio, directory, local, news, and shopping.

Directly below the query box is the new and improved Yahoo! Answers feature. Yahoo! Answers is a live-time question and answer forum where users can pose questions and receive response from other Yahoo! users. Many of the questions seem to come from younger users asking relationship advice.

In response to “JustCurious”, go for it dude! Moving in with your girlfriend at age 21 is something everyone should do at least once. It’s the 2K’s so chances are; you’ll do it a couple of times. For “Wonderingwife”, yes, given the information you’ve offered, most reasonable people would agree they guy is a jerk. I think you already know that though or you probably wouldn’t be asking. This is fun. Yahoo! Answers could quickly become addictive. Moving right along…

The page splits itself into three sections at this point. To the far left is an eighteen item menu listing general Yahoo! services ranging from Automobile listings to Yellow Pages search. A link to All Yahoo! Services can be found below this menu. Below that, links to small business services such as web hosting and Yahoo! Shopping and feature services such as 360 and Mobile are available.

Moving to the center of the screen, the main features box offers users four infotainment options including from Featured content, Entertainment, Sports and Money news. Today’s Featured content includes a humorous video introducing the new home page starring Yahoo! co-founders David Filo and Jerry Yang.

The video opens with a director’s assistant noting this is the third and final take before showing Filo and Yang sitting cross legged on a jury-rigged desk. Mixing elements from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues video and any number of Jay and Silent Bob routines, Yang and Filo welcome users to the new Yahoo!, getting a clever Mothers’ Day greeting in at the end.

Access to Yahoo news is provided in a space below the Featured content box with tabs offering localized and world news headlines and video sources.

Below the News box is a section labeled Marketplace that appears to display third-party commercial advertising including ads touting 1yr Degree granting schools, Blockbuster Online, Sylvan Learning Centers, and Financial services.

The personalized section mentioned previously appears on the far right hand side of the monitor. The personalized menu is functionally cool using DHTML to provide a series of expanding selection boxes. For instance, I can check emails received by at my Yahoo! address by mousing-over the mail link. A box expands showing the four most recent emails. Similarly, I can check traffic conditions in the nearest large US city (Seattle) by simply drawing my mouse over the link marked “local”. The menu item expands to show a map of the Seattle area displaying a number of traffic snarls that have developed over the past few minutes. (It is the start of rush hour on the Pacific coast).

Two new features appear on the revamped Yahoo! home page. The first shows the most popular entertainment searches of the day, with Angelina beating Jessica and Shakira as today’s most popular persona. The second and more interesting feature is called Yahoo! Pulse. Pulse details the top searches under a variety of categories, today’s being apparel. Shoes, prom dresses and sunglasses are the three most popular apparel items being sought today, in case you were interested.

The redesign of Yahoo!’s home page has been a long time coming. This design is a good leap forward and will likely be welcomed by Yahoo! users. That said, the new look can’t compensate for the enormous volume of information that threatens to overwhelm casual searchers. Fortunately for those who like a sparse look, Yahoo! maintains a much sparser interface at Search.Yahoo.Com.

Though Yahoo! editor, Havi Hoffman sees Yahoo! at the intersection of people, media and knowledge, the new interface makes me feel like I am being deluged by data streams. If there actually is an intersection of People, Media and Knowledge, Yahoo! is hoping the traffic signals it has built will help users navigate a vast ocean of information fled by multiple services.

A working analogy is difficult enough to draw. Imagine how intimidating it would be to create a functional application. Yahoo! designers should take credit for making a friendlier and more easily approachable home page.


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